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Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Husband Is A Crossdresser

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My husband has just released his deepest, darkest secret of being a crossdresser. He also posted a Craigslist ad. Is he cheating on me with men? Is he gay? Why would he advertise himself in lingerie online so the public can find out? He loves to wear women’s lingerie and masturbate. How am I supposed to feel about this when, in the public eye, he is a manly man with a family and a wife, and loves to go hunting? I have noticed [him doing] things like sitting while peeing, wearing a lot of thongs around the house and using my lotion or hair serum here and there. Do you have any articles I might find comfort in?

When we think we know everything about our partners, it can be a shock to discover that they have desires, fantasies or identities that they haven’t shared with us. The more taboo these desires or identities are, the harder it can be for our partners to tell us about them. Because our society still reinforces very rigid gender roles, especially for heterosexual men, it is often viewed as a “deep, dark secret” when a straight man enjoys things that are coded as feminine, such as lingerie, beauty products and sitting while urinating. Although it might seem difficult right now, it’s good that your husband trusts you enough to share his feelings with you, and that you are seeking out more information to understand his feelings better.

The questions you ask about whether this means your husband is attracted to men are not uncommon. We often mix up gender expression (whether a person is masculine, feminine, androgynous or a combination of these qualities) and sexual orientation (whether a person is attracted to men, women, both men and women or other genders) in our culture. This leads to a lot of stereotypes—for example, that all gay men are feminine, and that all feminine men are gay. While some gay men might be feminine and vice versa, this stereotype is not true for everyone.

So, crossdressing does not necessarily mean that your husband is gay or that he’s cheating on you. Some married, heterosexual, otherwise masculine men enjoy crossdressing, either because they find it erotic or because they find it psychologically fulfilling, allowing them to express a feminine identity that they otherwise must keep hidden.

It can be difficult for a wife to wrap her mind around her husband’s newly disclosed identity as a crossdresser and figure out what this means for their relationship. One of the best books on this topic is Helen Boyd’s memoir My Husband Betty: Love, Sex and Life with a Crossdresser. Helen has been speaking and blogging about this topic for ten years, and the “crossdressing” tag on her blog has many posts that may be of interest to you.

You wonder why he would post a Craigslist ad about his crossdressing. Men who crossdress often try to find communities online, not for sex, but to connect with other people who crossdress. This might be the purpose of the ad. For others, it’s important to be seen publicly in feminine dress or feminine persona, so a Craigslist ad might be a semi-anonymous way of doing this. The only way to know for sure is to talk to him about it.

This is not an easy issue to deal with, and many spouses in this situation have a lot of emotional reactions—anger, fear, disappointment and self-blame are common. It’s OK to have these emotions and work through them; your feelings are as valid as your husband’s. In addition, when men first come out as crossdressers, they may go through a period of being intensely focused on their own needs and desires. While this is normal and may resolve itself in time, it’s important to remember that both people in a relationship must have their needs equally considered and met for it to work; your needs are not less important.

In short, you are not alone in this situation, this is well within the range of normal behavior, and many couples have successfully navigated a husband’s identity as a crossdresser, but it takes work and communication from both parties.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

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